God as a Jewish Mother

Howdy folks!

It’s been a while. I know. But my life has been busy and strange lately, and so writing has sort of fallen to the wayside. But I’ve managed to create this little bit about communion (imagine that. yes, I know I’ve written on it already but i JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH). Enjoy!

I believed in God from a young age. It just made sense to me; of course there was a loving God who created the world! I credit much of my spiritual formation to my very early years spent in the Episcopal Church. Although I was (and am) a child incredibly prone to daydreams, I somehow absorbed the liturgy into my soul, even when I was searching for fairies in the rafters (seriously. The church I went to had these tiny lights way up in the exposed beams of the ceiling, and I was 1000% convinced they were faeries). An Episcopal service involves all the senses: taste, smell, touch, sound, sight. I think this is how it managed to seep into my soul; children need all five senses to be stimulated to learn and grow. I started participating in communion from a young age (bonus: Episcopalians use REAL wine so I became somewhat of a sommelier at age six), and though I might not have been able to tell you the theological significance behind the bread and wine, my spirit and mind hushed at the holy, imminent presence of God I encountered while partaking in the elements.

I’ve been confronted recently with the repeated imagery of bread and wine in the scripture. Ann Lammot talks about how God meets Elijah in the wilderness as a Jewish Mother “Eat something, you’re tired”. And Jesus, he talks about being the bread of life, and sanctifies the most of foods to be the food of new and unending life. And when he rises from the dead, he cooks for his friends. I joke a lot about how I pride myself on knowing how to keep things alive, and I think God brags to Himself about how well he knows how to sustain life (side note: can all my nursing people just geek out with me and IMAGINE how awesome God would be at teaching A&P or pathophys? “Ah, yes, the purjenke fibers. I made those. This is how they work”) And that’s what is so beautiful about God as the Jewish Mom- she’s so concerned about caring for us, making sure we have a good meal in our bellies, she makes the emblems of our faith the very sustenance of life. In a faith where our main man took off for heaven about 2000 years ago and left us with His living spirit and no physical body, there is a promise in the bread. Take, eat. Hold this wafer in your hand for a minute, taste the sweetness in your mouth. Hear the words read over you. See your brothers and sisters around you. Breathe deep the scent of wine, crushed grape and crushed body. And for just two minutes, I have a tangible hold on God.

 All of this to say, I’ve returned to the doors of my Mother Church. I go to an 8 am service at a small Episcopal Church up the hill where I am the youngest person by 40 years. And for one hour a week, my soul is anchored in the mystery of my faith again- Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. The words embedded in the fabric of my soul from age five, and they near move me to tears now. Evangelicalism has shaped me in countless beautiful and necessary ways, but I have so missed the rhythms of liturgy and lectionary. Also, I’m so sorry to those whose favorite bit of worship service is singing. Us 8 am people, we know we all sound like hungover frogs that early. No one is quite awake yet, so we do each other the courtesy of refraining from song. I do my best worshipful singing in the car on my way to work anyhow (Also- I can swagger about my departure from Evangelicalism all I want but Bethel’s new album is fabulous and you should tots treat yo soul to a copy).

Later Days,

Jess

PS: You know I can never make a post without a video, so here’s one that made me laugh pretty hard this week:

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Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey Lessons, or, How to Stop Placing your Human Identity in Futile Things

These past few months have been some of the hardest months of my life. I have struggled with doubt and insecurity on a daily basis. I’ve wondered if I chose the right career, if I made the right choice to move home, and if I even wanted to be a nurse any more. I’ve spent pretty much every Tuesday afternoon on my therapist’s couch, struggling with how I have wrapped my entire identity in the profession of nursing. I’ve spent the past 8 years of my life striving towards the end goal of being a nurse. Every step I have made has brought me closer to that goal, and I centered my very being on my performance in this area that I felt was (is) the unique call of God on my life. In this arduous process, I’ve learned a few things I would love to share. I am no wise sage, I only have 22 years of  life experience, so I humbly offer a few morsels of experience (sprinkled with nerdy references, of course.)

First, your value as a human being is not connected with your actions. I think we equate what we do with WHO we are way too much. Even if we do it in the name of “the Lord”, that does not make our identity as Beloved any greater or less. Simply BEING is what our value is. We are God-breathed poetry, beloved no matter how many beautiful or ugly things we do. Nursing is a beautiful and important work of mercy, but I do not have to be a nurse to be Beloved. I could continue to focus on my art* and mooch off of my parents forever, and that would not increase or decrease my intrinsic worth as a human anymore or less. Erik Erikson, a social psychologist, posed that there are a series of tasks every person must meet to continue to advance in human development. For teenagers, the task is identity vs. role confusion (who am I?), and for young adults, the task is intimacy vs. isolation (will I place myself in vulnerability to form intimate relationships, or will I remain isolated?).  Both of these make TOTAL sense when you observe both of these age groups in social settings. I propose that both of these tasks can be met in the person of Christ- our identity as human beings is Beloved; we exist in intimate relationship with our creator and our family, the Body of Christ. Basically, don’t place your identity in what you do. It will fail.

Second, your life is your life. Your career path and life choices do not need to look like everyone else. I was so frustrated with my inability to get an interview for an acute care, inpatient new grad residency. I kept thinking “I have to do this because this is what everyone is doing”. False. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean it’s right for you (shocking, I know.) Also, if you hate med-surg, don’t work in med-surg (that’s medical-surgical for all you non-nurses). I know every nurse and their grandma seems to think this is the ONLY way to be a good nurse. But here’s my humble opinion: med-surg is a really fabulous place to learn and practice basic nursing skills (placing foley’s, IV’s, learning traction…), but you can train a poodle to place an IV. There are innate nursing qualities that cannot be taught, and are applicable to every setting- compassion, kindness, advocacy, honesty, resourcefulness… you can use these skills in every single setting you find yourself in, whether its a big-name Magnet hospital, or a humble community health agency.

Third, to (roughly) quote Cheryl Strayed, “Every day, there is a sunrise and a sunset. You can chose to be there for them or not”. In your life, you can chose to be present for the ever day, very ordinary occurrences, or you can be so focused on your own little world in your head that you lose the day you are living. I’m trying to slow down a little, watch the birds in my backyard, play with my old dog**, and stop obsessing over the million thoughts that seek to consume every last ounce of my energy.

Finally, stop worrying over whether or not whatever you are doing is “God’s will” for your life. I don’t think there’s some great cosmic timeline for my life that I must follow to a tee unless I want my world to crumble. God is not that small, and Her timetable is a lot more wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey than we can think. One of my all time favorite verses is Micah 6:8 “And what does the Lord require of you but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. God want’s a relationship with us, and from that relationship springs a desire to do justice and mercy and to walk in humble communion with our Maker. If you’re doing that, you’re living in God’s will.

This past week, I started my job as a Pediatric nurse. It’s just so lovely and exciting and frightening I can hardly function. So I covet your prayers.

Later Days,

Jess

*”focusing on my art” aka “focusing on my art of Netflix watching”

**I said goodbye to my old girl on this past Friday- I’m so happy I made it a priority to stop and “smell the roses” with her these last few weeks. Time is a precious thing, folks. Make time for what has eternal significance.